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EU crisis: How much money ‘German banks REALLY earned from Greek debt crisis’

The EU is taking unprecedented action to help its members endure the massive economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic. However, some nations are resisting the idea of shared borrowing to cover the heavy costs, suggesting that even during this crisis there are limits to solidarity in a bloc that is trying to reaffirm itself after Brexit. The EU’s executive has temporarily set aside its strict rules on spending to give governments the leeway they need to keep their economies afloat.

However, that is not going to be enough, as it will leave the most affected countries, such as Italy, managing their own worsened finances once the crisis has ended.

National governments have so far stopped short of bigger action involving breaking a longstanding taboo: joint borrowing among countries that share the euro currency.

Leaders are expected to discuss the question in a teleconferenced summit today, but Germany and the Netherlands are adamantly opposed to pooling risk across the continent.

Holger Schmieding, the chief economist at Berenberg bank, said: “To which extent Europeans help each other in this acute emergency can shape popular perceptions of what Europe stands for – and for a long time to come.”

As the crisis deepens, unearthed reports reveal how Germany, a leading nation in the Greek bailouts, has earned huge sums in interest payments since the financial crisis.

In 2010, eurozone countries bought €210billion of government paper, including Greek bonds, in order to provide greater liquidity to the EU’s banks as the Greek debt crisis unfolded.

According to figures obtained from Angela Merkel’s government by Germany’s Green Party in 2018, Germany received €2.9billion (£2.5billion) in interest payments on Greek bonds that were bought through a now-defunct bond-buying programme.

Germany also received a total of €400million (£341million) on a loan from the KfW Development Bank.

The original agreement between Berlin and Athens was for any interest earned on the bonds to be paid back to Greece when it fulfilled its reform obligations.

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However, Germany repaid €527million (£449million) of interest payments to Athens in 2013 and €387million (£330million) in 2014.

After Greece’s second bailout programme was agreed in 2015, those repayments stopped, and Berlin accumulated the ongoing interest.

Therefore, Germany is reportedly €2.5billion (£2.1billion) in profit, plus interest of €400million (£341million) on a loan from the KfW development bank.

Sven-Christian Kindler, a Green MP, said in 2018 that Germany had “massively profited from the crisis in Greece”.

He said: “It cannot be the case that the German government consolidates the German budget with billions in Greek interest profits.

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“Greece needs air to breath and room for manoeuvre for investments and fighting poverty in the country.”

Not long after the German government released the figures, eurozone countries agreed to the long-awaited debt relief deal for Athens in June 2018.

The deal gave Athens more time to repay the loans and extended a grace period during which no interest would be taken.

EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said at the time that the agreement meant “the Greek crisis ends here”.

Greece successfully exited the bailouts on August 20, 2018.

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US Senate unanimously passes TRILLION dollar coronavirus package

The bill passed by a vote of 96 to 0, showing unanimous bipartisan support for the bill.

The vote ends days of deadlock and debate over provisions for American people and businesses

It’s now sent to the House Of Representatives for the next stage of debate.

The emergency legislation is the largest economic relief bill in US history.

The package is expected to provide one-time direct payments to Americans of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year.

The payments extend to $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child. 

The benefit is reduced by $5 for each $100 the taxpayer makes, assisting poorer workers.

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The legislation is the product of crisis compromise between a bitterly divided political system in America.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that the House of Representatives vote will be “a good debate on the floor.”

Speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday about fears the bill doesn’t go far enough, she said: What is important is for us to recognize the good that is in the bill, appreciate it for what it does. Don’t judge it for what it doesn’t because we have more bills to come,

“At the start of all this we had two bills, which were about emergencies … and the emergency isn’t over, but the focus was on those two bills. Now we’re mitigating for the damage of it all to the health and to the livelihood of the American people,

She added: “That is in this bill. And then we will go forward for recovery. Emergency, mitigation, recovery.

”And again all along the way still addressing the emergency and mitigation needs by focusing on how we build the economy in a positive way as we meet the health needs of the American people.”

She has said she’s “very pleased (…) congressional Democrats were able to turn upside down the bill that was presented at the beginning of the weekend.

“It was a trickle-down, corporate bill. It is now a bubble-up, workers bill and we’re very proud of that.”

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The package is intended as relief for an economy falling fast into recession.

This comes along with America facing a devastating toll from an infection that’s killed nearly 20,000 people worldwide.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is reticent to allow the unprecedented aid to continue for too long, as the bill costs half the annual federal budget.

He said: “We’ve anticipated three months. Hopefully, we won’t need this for three months.”

The US currently has 64’180 cases of Coronavirus based on available testing.

As of Thursday, 897 have died after contracting the virus.

New York remains the most afflicted state, with its dense population leading to over 30’000 cases.

Michigan, California and Washington are all around the 2’500 mark, as the pandemic rages across the US.

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EU shame: Yanis Varoufakis reveals what Brussels should REALLY do to protect the economy

The European Union is scrambling to find the tools to offset the massive economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis – which could require a global effort to resolve. So far, the European Central Bank has launched a €750billion (£689billion) expansion of its debt-buying programme in an effort to calm markets roiled by the crisis. Brussels has also relaxed budget rules and allowed member states to redirect money allocated for other purposes to fight the virus, which has so far infected more than 100,000 people across the continent.

According to many, though, this is not enough.

Poland’s finance minister Tadeusz Koscinski has dismissed the EU’s economic response to the coronavirus pandemic as “smoke and mirrors”, and told the Financial Times that the bloc needs to do more to help workers whose jobs are at risk from the slump in economic activity.

Italy, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Europe, has also accused the bloc of being slow in coming to the country’s aid.

As uncertainty continues and the crisis deepens, leading economist and former Greek Financial Minister Yanis Varoufakis explained everything wrong with the EU’s response to the pandemic and revealed what the bloc should be doing instead.

In a video posted on his YouTube channel DiEM25 last week, he said: “The other day there was a eurogroup meeting.

“The meeting of the European Union’s finance ministers of the countries that are using the euro. They decided that coronavirus poses a clear and present danger of a massive recession in Europe.

“They said it is a highly significant threat to European economies.

“So much so that the urgency was so great that they decided to do absolutely nothing.

“They decided they are going to monitor the situation and watch.”

Mr Varoufakis noted: “The eurogroup, the EU and in particular the eurozone are terribly structured.

“They are on autopilot.

“They simply follow particular rules that cannot be followed without racking our economies. It is a reflection of a system that has been created in order to prevent governments from acting on behalf of society.

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“That is if you want the ‘neo-liberal kernel inside Europe’.”

Mr Varoufakis added: “We live in a world which is not governed in a way that allows us to see any light at the end of the tunnel regarding the handling of capitalism.

“This neverending crisis which the coronavirus has now turbocharged.

“The EU has never been less competent than it is now.

“The EU has never been less capable of acting as a union.”

Referring to the proposals of his political movement DIEM25 or Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, the former Finance Minister said: “We need a common investment policy based on an alliance between the European investment bank and the European Central Bank.

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“We need a universal basic dividend

“We need a carbon tax and a social equity fund, the purpose of which will be to energise both private capital and public finance.

“We need public financial instruments in order to take the liquidity that exist in our financial circuits and put it into good use.

“Press them into public service in terms of public health, in terms of creating good quality jobs.

“The agenda of DIEM25 has never been more pertinent and has never been more urgent than today.”

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Coronavirus: Italian doctor accuses EU states of ‘shameful abdication of responsibility’

Last week, Italy went into lockdown. Schools and universities are closed, football games are suspended, and restaurant visits are banned amid a rapid spread of the novel coronavirus in the country. Just grocery stores and pharmacies are allowed to stay open, and only essential travel is permitted. But despite the restrictive measures, the number of people infected and dying from coronavirus is rising. On Wednesday, Italy recorded 475 in one day – the biggest increase since the outbreak.

When COVID-19 started spreading rapidly, the country appealed for help via the Emergency Response Coordination Centre, a special European crisis mechanism.

However, no EU country responded.

Fearful of its own shortages, Germany initially banned the export of medical masks and other protective gear.

3M, a producer, said the German restrictions had made it impossible to supply the Italian market.

France and Czech Republic which – together with Germany and Poland – are the main face mask manufacturers, also stopped exporting them.

In response, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had to interfere and in in a video-message on Twitter, as she urged member states to ramp up the production of medical equipment and share those goods within the bloc.

In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Maurizio Brucchi, a renowned Italian doctor who served as Mayor of Teramo, hit out at Germany and France, accusing them of a shameful abdication of responsibility.

He said: “We had a shortage of medical supplies.

“Face masks, in particular.

“And then we find out it is because Germany and France blocked their exports to Italy.

“This is appalling and shameful. I will never stop saying this.

“They keep telling us we are a single Europe, we all brothers and sisters, we all belong to the same state.

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“And then, they do this?”

Mr Brucchi added: “We trusted the EU – but they don’t think of us as their equals.

“Germany and France do not consider ourselves on their level.

“They want us to end up like Greece. That’s their goal.

“And if they don’t do anything, we will.”

He noted: “We, Italians, do not feel European at the moment.”

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In the meantime, a partial saviour arrived in Italy.

At midnight on March 12, a Chinese aircraft landed in Rome carrying nine medical experts and 31 tons of medical supplies including intensive care unit equipment, medical protective equipment, and antiviral drugs.

Around the same time, a Chinese truck arrived in Italy bringing more than 230 boxes of medical equipment.

Beijing’s gesture reinforced the perceived lack of support from the EU, compounded by a blunder by the European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde, who last week implied it was no longer her job to keep Italy in the euro.

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Trump hails Americans as ‘strongest’ after declaring national emergency over coronavirus

Currently, the virus has spread to 46 states, infecting at least 1,920 people and causing 41 deaths. But the US President sought to rally morale in a tweet in which he boasted that Americans were the “most resilient” people on earth to deal with the virus. He tweeted: “Americans are the strongest and most resilient people on earth…We will remove or eliminate every obstacle necessary to deliver our people the care that they need, and that they are entitled to. No resource will be spared.”

Earlier on Friday, Mr Trump said that he may add Britain to his European travel ban in the coming days, as the number of COVID-19 cases in the UK soared on Friday.

On Thursday, the US President declared that he was placing a 30 day travel ban on mainland Europe, effective from midnight Friday.

In a move that was seen as controversial, Mr Trump exempted the UK from his new travel restrictions.

However, on Friday the UK reported a significant spike in the number of new infections.

The past 24 hours have seen over 200 more cases confirmed, bringing the total number to 798, with 11 deaths.

Explaining his change of mind, the US President told a press conference at the White House: “We are looking at it based on the new numbers that are coming out.

“And we may have to include them in the list of countries that we will, you could say ban or whatever it is, during this period of time.”

Also on Friday, the President declared a state of emergency, as he ramped up his administration’s response to the coronavirus crisis in the US.

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Mr Trump has been accused of underplaying the seriousness of the situation.

In particular, his administration has been roundly criticised over a nationwide shortage of testing kits.

The US President said that the state of emergency would unleash US50 billion in extra funds too help fight the virus.

He urged states to set up emergency operation centres and hospitals to initiate emergency plans.

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Mr Trump also announced that the White House would work with private companies to help make up for the shortfall in testing kits.

The new measures will include “drive-through” testing centres in car parks at CVS, Target, Walmart and Walgreens stores.

The President explained his team expected “half a million additional tests will be available early next week which will bring probably 1.4m tests next week and 5m in a month.

“Our overriding goal is to stop the spread of the virus.”

He refused to accept responsibility for the lack of testing facilities, choosing instead to blame the previous administration.

He said: “I don’t take responsibility at all, because we were given a set of circumstances and we were given rules, regulations and specifications from a different time.”

He then added: “What we’ve done is redesign it very quickly with the help of the people around me … We’ll have the ability to do millions over a quick period of time.”

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation stepped up its calls for intensified action to fight the coronavirus pandemic, imploring countries “not to let this fire burn”.

It comes as Spain announced that it would declare a 15-day state of emergency from Saturday.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general, said Europe had become the centre of the epidemic, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined apart from China.

COVID-19 is present in all 27 European countries and has infected at least 25,000 people.

Dr Tedros implored countries to take coordinated and comprehensiv. action, saying: “Not testing alone. Not quarantine alone. Not social distancing alone. Do it all. Find, isolate, test and treat every case, to break the chains of transmission … Do not just let this fire burn.”

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Ireland coronavirus lockdown: Varadkar triggers MAJOR alert – raft of emergency closures

Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister) announced schools, colleges and childcare facilities will close from 6pm today in response to the coronavirus outbreak. He also said indoor mass gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor events of more than 500 people should be cancelled. The Irish leader also called on people to work from home where possible.

One person, who was in Lidl when the news broke, said Mr Varadkar’s announcement has led to a “strange atmosphere”.

They said: “People do seem worried. It’s a strange atmosphere.”

His announcement comes after Ireland announced its first death from coronavirus, formally known as COVID-19.

The elderly woman died in a Dublin hospital on Wednesday.

Mr Varadkar made the announcement from Blair House in Washington DC, where he is currently on a visit to mark St Patrick’s day.

He said: “From 6pm today, the following measures will be put in place, and they will stay in place until March 29.

“Schools, colleges and childcare facilities will close from tomorrow. Where possible teaching will be done online or remotely.

“Cultural institutions will close as well.

“Our advice is that all indoor mass gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor mass gatherings of more than 500 people should be cancelled.”

Mr Varadkar said the measures so far do not extend to public transport, shops and restaurants – which will remain open.

But he advised businesses should look at ways to introduce social distancing.

He said: “Public transport will continue to operate, the shops will remain open and we have plans to ensure that supply chains will not be interrupted.”

“We need the public and businesses to take a sensible, level headed and responsible approach during the difficult time.

“Restaurants, cafes and other businesses can stay open but to look at ways they can implement public health advice and social distancing.”

He said we have not witnessed a pandemic of this nature in living memory and acting now will have the greatest impact.

Chris Smyth, Whitehall Editor at the Times, has warned Ireland’s announcement causes a “political dilemma” for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

He said: “He criticised other countries for knee-jerk action yesterday, but is feeling the pressure to announce something today (even if only promise of action next week).

“If he holds the line today, Britain will seem increasingly isolated from its neighbours.”

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